By Frank Miller
In “This Sex Which Is Not One” Luce Irigaray provides readers with her take on the state of female sexuality, that it simply serves as the stems to the roots of a plant, those roots being sexuality as man has defined it throughout history. She writes “the development of a sexually ‘normal’ woman, seems rather too clearly required by the practice of male sexuality” and that the vagina serves as a “sheathe [to] massage the penis in intercourse: a non-sex, or a masculine organ turned back upon itself, self-embracing” (363).
Irigaray expresses that a male dominated sexual world begins at birth when females are socialized to desire penises over their vaginas, and learns to hope (from her father) that she will indeed one day obtain one, or “at least come to possess an equivalent of the male organ” (363). Irigaray proposes that this process is unabashedly backward due to the fact that females have different anatomies, and thus find pleasure in completely opposite manner (the autoeroticism of women v. man). She proposes that women “self-caress” without the need of any external forces, “for her genitals are formed of two lips in continuous contact” (363) and that man interrupts this continuous contact with his penis and animalistic nature that “desire[s] to force entry, to penetrate, to appropriate for himself the mystery of this womb where he has been conceived, the secret of his begetting, of his ‘origin'” (364) reducing women to an “obliging prop for the enactment of of man’s fantasies” (364). She indicates that within man’s attempt to pleasure himself with woman’s body, a woman “does not know, or no longer knows, what she wants” (364) due to the fact she becomes secondary within man’s sexuality and finds her sexual pleasure and self worth through her “state of dependency upon man” (364).
In a society that “count[s] everything, [and] number[s] everything by units” the woman serves as “neither one nor two” (365) Irigaray writes. She cannot be identified and lacks a proper name due to the “none-ness” of her sexual organ, meaning that only a “visible and morphologically designatable organ” (365) can be counted, otherwise identified as a penis. Irigaray claims that this wrong, that a woman does indeed contain sexual organs; however, “[the] two of them, are not identifiable as ones” (366). She claims that woman’s sexuality is vast and expansive, and reminds readers that a woman’s clitoris (baby penis) is not her sole source of pleasure, she possesses a vagina, and more importantly a “woman has sex organs more or less everywhere. She finds pleasure almost anywhere” (366). Irigaray explains that woman’s language, is a reflection of her sexuality, and something that males cannot easily categorize and ultimately dismiss. “What she says is never identical with anything, moreover; rather it is contiguous. It touches (upon). And when it strays to far from that proximity, she breaks off and starts over at “zero”: her body-sex” (366). And to further reinforce this, when asked what she is thinking “they can only reply: Nothing. Everything…thus what they desire is precisely nothing, and at the same time everything” (once again, becoming zero or none) (367). And while “their desire is often interpreted, and feared, as a sort of insatiable hunger, a voracity that will swallow you whole…it really involves a different economy more than anything else, one that upsets the linearity of a project, undermines the goal-object of desire, diffuses the polarization toward a single pleasure, disconcerts fidelity to a single discourse….” (367). This is, itself enough to prove why defining woman through a male illustrated picture of sexuality becomes problematic.
In further discussion, Irigaray proposes that females become a part of “a dominant scopic economy” and through her submission to this “she becomes the beautiful object of contemplation” (364). She learns to identify herself as this “beautiful object” and ultimately dreads “her sexual organ represent[ing] the horror of nothing to see” (364) within man’s terms. I see reflections of this within modern society as multiple people, as well as women use the proverb “a good man is hard to find.” At face-value this elevates man to a higher status then a woman (at least a good one); leaving women, and more specifically, “a good woman” as nothing to be celebrated, as well as nothing to see. I’m a man so the women in the class might have to help me out here, but doesn’t this spark some serious insecurities?